Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Response to Maureen Barron's letter

Maureen Barron
Chief Executive
Screen NSW
Level 5, 323 Castlereagh St
Sydney 2001                                                                                      

28th Oct 2014

Dear Maureen

Your letter to me of 16th Oct does not answer any of my questions or address any of the issues I raised in my letter to you. You merely reiterate the information passed on to me by Mark Hamlyn and Kate Stone in our meeting earlier in the month - namely that Screen NSW has guidelines and that these must be adhered to come hell or high water. No exceptions can be made and no dialogue will be entered into about the logic that informs them!

These guidelines are not holy writ, Maureen, like the Ten Commandments. They were formulated by film bureaucrats. They can be changed by these same bureaucrats. By you!

You make it clear in your letter of 16th that you have no intention of either changing the guidelines or of entering into a dialogue with me (or the Writer’s Guild, it seems) about the need for guidelines that exclude filmmakers such as myself.  And, I should add, a lot of talented and very experienced screenwriters who just happen not to have written the screenplay for a feature film produced in the last decade.

You say I am not banned, Maureen, but this is not true. A filmmaker who is ineligible to make applications to Screen NSW is, by definition, banned. During the Apartheid era a white bureaucrat in South Africa could, applying the same logic, have said to a black man: “You are not banned from sitting at the front of the bus. It’s just that in accordance with our guidelines, you must sit at the back of the bus.”
In my letter to mark Hamlyn of 22nd Sept I asked this question:
“Given that ANGKOR will require an international cast, does a producer with the requisite qualifications have to be an Australian citizen?”
I have not received an answer to this question and would appreciate one. The producer I am referring to has more that 40 years experience producing films  and has produced several feature films in the past few years. He is not Australian, however. Would my application for Early Stage Development funds be acceptable to Screen NSW if I nominated him as my producer? He is, incidentally, in the process of developing feature films set in Australia and has a long association with Australia.
And if this non-Australian producer is not acceptable, how about another producer (my second choice) who likewise has 40 years experience but has not made a feature film in the past decade? She, along with myself and the script editor I would like to work with, would have between 120 years of film experience. Would I be eligible to apply with such a team in place? Please do not refer me to your guidelines, Maureen. Please explain why it is that such a team would be ineligible.
I had another question for Mark which likewise remains unanswered:
“In relation to SHIPS IN THE NIGHT, the first draft funded by Screen NSW, what funds am I qualified to apply for with this project? I would like to know, in advance, where the goalposts are. I do not wish to make an application only to find that the goalposts have shifted or that you have found, somewhere in your guidelines, some reason to knock my application back.”
Given that I am banned by Screen Australia, one option open to me is to produce SHIPS IN THE NIGHT for a very low budget – filming the entire feature film (set for the most part inside a taxi on one night) in 3 to 4 days. If I were to put up half of a $100,000 budget, say, would Screen NSW be able to match my funding with the other 50% it its assessment of the project was a positive one?
I think I know what your answer will be: “In accordance with Screen NSW’s guidelines etc…(the answer is no).” Nonetheless, I would like you to explain to me in what ways Screen NSW might be able to help me get SHIPS IN THE NIGHT made given that I am both not banned and not eligible to apply!
Your guidelines are a major problem, Maureen. The fact that you do not see this is another major problem. And the fact that you refuse to enter into dialogue with either myself or, it seems, with the Writer’s Guild is yet another major problem.
It’s a new production and broadcast world we live in now and it is time for Screen NSW to realize this and respond accordingly with guidelines that are in sync with it.

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